Keeping Your Students Covid-19 Safe
Dr. Benjamin Holton, Senior Director for Stamps Health Services
As we begin Spring Semester at Georgia Tech, much of the country, including the State of Georgia, is experiencing high levels of Covid-19 infection in the community. During fall semester, Georgia Tech successfully implemented mitigation strategies, a surveillance testing program and a contact tracing program that allowed the Institute to successfully navigate the semester with relatively low disease activity levels.
We will continue to use these same strategies to protect the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff during Spring Semester. As we do, we continue to emphasize the importance of wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, avoiding gathering in large groups, and diligent hand washing to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Our robust asymptomatic testing program will continue throughout the spring semester. To date, our surveillance testing program has done 200,000 Covid-19 tests on Georgia Tech students and employees. Members of the campus community have easy access to testing sites located in multiple locations throughout campus. Using data from our testing program, we have been able to focus our effort to identify and isolate clusters of illness and reduce spread on the campus. Significant effort has been put into testing as many students, faculty, and staff as possible as we have returned to campus for the beginning of the spring semester and that has helped limit the spread of the virus throughout our returning population.
The new development for spring semester is vaccines for Covid-19. Currently, two vaccines have an emergency use authorization (EUA) in the United States, and these vaccines offer the hope that we may soon see an end to this pandemic. Stamps Health Services, the student health center on campus, is approved as a vaccine distribution site by the Georgia Department of Public Health. We have already received one shipment of vaccines containing doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. We are utilizing the Pfizer vaccine for our mass vaccination effort on campus. We have already administered over 1,000 doses of vaccine to individuals who have met the Phase 1A+ criteria of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). We will continue to follow the guidelines established by DPH for the phased vaccination of our campus population.
We plan to provide vaccination to our faculty and staff in Phase 1B of the vaccination plan. It is anticipated that students who are also employees of Georgia Tech will be included in this phase. Phase 1C will include students who have underlying medical conditions that put them at risk of severe disease from Covid-19. Then the majority of our students will be offered vaccination in Phase 2. The DPH defines each of these phases and those identified within them - we must abide by their timeline in terms of when we move from one phase to the next which is why we cannot predict when we will enter each of these next phases. Georgia Tech is working on a fair and equitable plan for prioritization within each phase.
While implementing these strategies to prevent the spread of Covid-19 on campus, Georgia Tech is also putting significant effort into providing opportunities for students to engage in meaningful interactions with other students and with faculty and staff in ways that are as safe as possible. Our goal is to provide students with multiple avenues to make connections and build community, both in-person and virtually.
Staff from both the Student Life and Campus Services divisions are working to foster creative and innovative approaches to interaction that allow students to have a “real” college experience, even if it is not quite the same as before Covid-19. These divisions also offer a wide range of resources and services to students who need assistance during these trying times.
Covid-19 has significantly disrupted life as we knew it. My own daughter missed out on her college graduation ceremony in May due to the disruptions caused by Covid-19. We look forward with optimism to a spring semester where, through diligent practice of mitigation measures, robust participation in our campus testing program, cooperation with efforts to isolate and quarantine those with Covid-19, and enthusiastic participation in our vaccination campaign, we bring an end to Covid-19 and once again enjoy the in-person fellowship of colleagues and friends.
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